Farm Ninjas bound for globals

By Ron Burtz

Sixth grade teacher Hallie Webster, center, holds a ball of duct tape used to fasten her to the wall of Custer Elementary School on Thursday. She is flanked by members of the state champion Destination Imagination (DI) team from Custer who sponsored the stunt as a fundraiser for their trip to the DI Global Finals next week in Knoxville, Tenn. From left are Emily Lent, Abigail Boggs, Webster, Emma Arp and Sierra Swanson.

A quartet of Custer sixth grade students will be heading for Knoxville, Tenn., next week, but their destination is imagination. The girls who call their team “The Farm Ninjas” will be contestants in the Destination Imagination (DI) Global Finals May 23-26 and will compete against 1,400 teams from dozens of U.S. states and 15 countries around the world. The team is made up of Abigail Boggs, Emily Lent, Sierra Swanson, and Emma Arp, and is coached by Miranda Boggs.   

The Farm Ninjas earned the right to represent South Dakota when they won the state finals in Pierre on April 7. Their challenge in the Fine Arts category of the competition was to produce a musical play. Adding difficulty to the challenge was the fact that the team had to write the production, do the acting, singing, and choreography and make the props and set, all without any help from adults and within a budget of $150.

“For instance, if a project was made out of wood we could show them how to do it, but they had to cut it themselves,” said coach Boggs. She also said the rules regarding the budget were quite strict. All materials and even costumes in the production had to be assigned a “yard sale value.”

Cardboard and other items considered trash were the only materials that did not need to be accounted for in the budget.

The musical created by the Custer team centered around a battle of the bands competition in which one of the bands ends up falling through the ground into a cemetery and has to recruit denizens of the graveyard to continue to compete. This called for the team to write verses to two parody songs, design skeleton costumes and develop a backdrop that could be quickly and easily changed.  

In order to change scenes the girls painted two different backgrounds on bed sheets, then sewed them together into a loop which was mounted on a PVC pipe frame. They then cut a bicycle in half using a hacksaw and used the rear wheel of the bike as a pulley to rotate the sheets. When time came for the scene change one of the team members simply turned the pedals on the bike frame.  

With only a little over six weeks between the state contest and the global finals the team has been busy trying to raise the $6,800 needed for the trip. They got a $670 boost last week through a fundraiser at school that resulted in a teacher getting duct taped to the wall of the multipurpose room at an assembly on Thursday.  

Six elementary staff members volunteered to participate in the fundraiser. Over several days students voted which faculty member they wanted to see taped to the wall using money for votes. The top vote-getter was sixth grade teacher Hallie Webster.  

The DI team had to do additional research to figure out the best way to tape a person to a wall and managed to secure Webster with her feet about eight inches above the floor for several seconds before the tape began to pull away.